It may seem like my comfort zone is quite large and there isn’t anything that naturally falls outside of it. But all that is bravado and me not necessarily admitting that I even have boundaries. I am quite stubborn about not being told what I CAN’T do so mostly when someone asks me to try something I will. Though there are definitely some things that take me a very long time to agree to try because they are so far outside my comfort zone. Like skydiving. Exactly like skydiving.
My gym family, much like a regular family but better at pushing people outside their comfort zones in a non-judgemental way, includes several skydivers so naturally there is a yearly skydiving adventure. And this year, my third year with my gym, I decided to try it.
Like many people I had no idea why people would jump out of a perfectly good plane so I needed to find out. My fears of heights, hitting the ground, and the unknown PLUS my propensity for motion sickness were all contributing factors to my hesitation. Factors contributing to wanting to try: my love of speed, roller coasters, and new experiences, as well as a little FOMO. Ok, a lot of FOMO. What if I decided I loved this? I would never know as long as I never tried. So I decided to try it.
I waited until almost the last minute to sign up and even then didn’t tell people. Because why? This was something that I never thought I would do so I didn’t feel the need to advertise. Except I told my mom and a couple other people. Because mom always needs to know – right? Or maybe I used her a little – I knew she wouldn’t like it so I could “defy” her and do it anyway. Remember that bravado I mentioned earlier? Yea, something to that effect.
So a couple Sundays ago I drove to the drop site (I get to throw those terms around now since I’ve done it once) and met up with my gym family members who were planning their own jumps and those who were there for moral support. The day was beautiful – lots of pretty clouds and bright blue sky. It was a GREAT temperature and there was a good breeze. Really, the perfect late summer day. There was lots of joking and nervous laughter had by all as we waited for our group to be called. Also, a lot of trips to the bathroom.
When our group was up for training it kinda got real. The video they showed was reminiscent of those horrible videos they showed in drivers ed, minus the grisly photos and accident statistics. Skydiving is dangerous. No equipment is perfect. No one is perfect. The ultimate failure is death. You know, things like that. Now here are the releases, please sign and enjoy!
We were put into our harnesses and it was time to wait. Probably the longest, shortest wait ever. My trainer (James, I believe) was so very nice. Just enough jokes to take my mind off things but not so many as to make me question why I was strapped in a harness waiting for the plane to land. And patient with the likes of me.
The plane landed. Which meant I was being strapped to my trainer (the guy who knows how to do this) and loaded into a plane. I love being in planes. Planes mean adventures. And clouds. And freedom. And in this case the beginning of the end. My mind was racing – what did James say about how to jump? When was I supposed to arch? What were my hands and arms supposed to do? All of it rushing through my mind as I watched the details of the land grow smaller as we climbed to altitude. James kept showing me his altitude watch but I was in no mood to understand it.
Then it was time. The door opened. The real jumpers jumped. We shimmied to the end of the bench. There goes the first tandems. How many before me? I don’t recall. It was my turn soon enough. In the door. Wind. One (forward), two (back), three (out)! Ohhh fuuuck. Yes, those were the words I uttered before my brain remembered: head back, hands on harness straps, ARCH, hips forward, feet back. And we were in freefall. Noisy, interesting. Clouds, ground, other jumpers. Tap on shoulder – released my hands – flying. Whoosh.
Then the brakes. Harness tightened as parachute opened. I so desperately wanted to experience it all. Brief conversation, now my turn to steer. Pull the ropes and go left, now right. Crap. Not literally, but motion sickness kicked in. Nausea. Stomach turning somersaults. Go quiet and just experience it all – clouds, wind, silence.
And we landed. A bit abrupt but we were on the ground. All I really wanted at that moment was to curl up and nap away the nausea but I had to get up and return my stuff. And show my weakness. Which I really hate. Did I LOVE it? No. Why not? Motion sick, nauseous. Into the building to return the harness and get my certificate. I’d done it. Now I needed water. And time. Lots of deep breaths and sympathy. I would be OK.
BUT I learned something exciting: I tried something to see what it was like and now I don’t have to do it again. The old adage “you don’t know until you try” is true: as long as I never went skydiving there was always the chance that I would love it. Now that I’ve done it I know I don’t love it and don’t need to do it again. Next year I will probably drive out to the drop site and cheer on other gym family members as they experience skydiving for the first time or again. I’ll offer hugs and congratulations to everyone. And keep my feet firmly on the ground.